Caste (Oprah's Book Club): The Origins of Our Discontents

Caste (Oprah's Book Club): The Origins of Our Discontents

by Isabel Wilkerson (Author)

Number-One New York Times Best Seller

Oprah's Book Club Pick

National Book Award Longlist

“An instant American classic and almost certainly the keynote nonfiction book of the American century thus far.” (Dwight Garner, The New York Times)

The Pulitzer Prize-winning, best-selling author of The Warmth of Other Suns examines the unspoken caste system that has shaped America and shows how our lives today are still defined by a hierarchy of human divisions.

Named the Number-One Nonfiction Book of the Year by Time, One of the Ten Best Books of the Year by People The Washington Post Publishers Weekly and One of the Best Books of the Year by the New York Times Book Review O: The Oprah Magazine  NPR Bloomberg  Christian Science Monitor New York Post The New York Public Library  Fortune  Smithsonian Magazine  Marie Claire Town & Country Slate  Library Journal Kirkus Reviews LibraryReads PopMatters

Winner of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize National Book Critics Circle Award Finalist  PEN/John Kenneth Galbraith Award for Nonfiction Finalist PEN/Jean Stein Book Award Longlist

“As we go about our daily lives, caste is the wordless usher in a darkened theater, flashlight cast down in the aisles, guiding us to our assigned seats for a performance. The hierarchy of caste is not about feelings or morality. It is about power - which groups have it and which do not.”

In this brilliant book, Isabel Wilkerson gives us a masterful portrait of an unseen phenomenon in America as she explores, through an immersive, deeply researched narrative and stories about real people, how America today and throughout its history has been shaped by a hidden caste system, a rigid hierarchy of human rankings.

Beyond race, class, or other factors, there is a powerful caste system that influences people’s lives and behavior and the nation’s fate. Linking the caste systems of America, India, and Nazi Germany, Wilkerson explores eight pillars that underlie caste systems across civilizations, including divine will, bloodlines, stigma, and more. Using riveting stories about people - including Martin Luther King, Jr., baseball’s Satchel Paige, a single father and his toddler son, Wilkerson herself, and many others - she shows the ways that the insidious undertow of caste is experienced every day. She documents how the Nazis studied the racial systems in America to plan their out-cast of the Jews; she discusses why the cruel logic of caste requires that there be a bottom rung for those in the middle to measure themselves against; she writes about the surprising health costs of caste, in depression and life expectancy, and the effects of this hierarchy on our culture and politics. Finally, she points forward to ways America can move beyond the artificial and destructive separations of human divisions, toward hope in our common humanity.

Beautifully written, original, and revealing, Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents is an eye-opening story of people and history, and a reexamination of what lies under the surface of ordinary lives and of American life today.

In "Caste (Oprah's Book Club): The Origins of Our Discontents," Isabel Wilkerson delves into the intricate web of caste systems that have shaped societies across history and continents. Through meticulous research and poignant storytelling, she exposes the profound and lasting impact of caste on individuals and communities.

Wilkerson's exploration begins in India, where the rigid caste system has dictated social hierarchies for centuries. She then draws parallels to other societies, including the United States, where the legacy of slavery and racial segregation has created a de facto caste system that continues to perpetuate inequality and oppression.

Wilkerson's work is a powerful indictment of caste systems, revealing how they have been used to justify discrimination, violence, and exclusion. She argues that caste is not simply a matter of race or class, but rather a deeply ingrained social construct that permeates all aspects of life, affecting everything from marriage and education to employment and healthcare.

Wilkerson's narrative is enriched by the personal stories of individuals who have been both oppressed and empowered by caste. She introduces us to people like Ruth Jefferson, an African American woman who fought against segregation in the Jim Crow South, and Martin Luther King Jr., a civil rights leader who sought to dismantle the caste system in America.

"Caste" is a thought-provoking and meticulously researched book that sheds light on a complex and often overlooked aspect of human history. Wilkerson's writing is both insightful and empathetic, making this book a must-read for anyone seeking to understand the roots of inequality and the path towards a more just and equitable society.


August 04, 2020